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Human Cowpox Infection Treatment & Management

  • Author: Nikki A Levin, MD, PhD; Chief Editor: Dirk M Elston, MD  more...
Updated: Sep 08, 2015

Medical Care

Because cowpox is generally a self-limited disease, treatment is largely supportive. Patients often do not feel well and require bed rest or, occasionally, hospitalization.

Antiviral medications are not routinely used in cases of human cowpox, nor are antibiotics given unless the patient has developed a secondary bacterial infection. However, studies in mice suggest a role for the viral DNA polymerase inhibitor cidofovir, given parenterally, topically, or in an aerosolized form, for disseminated cases of cowpox.[20, 21]

Patients should be made aware that their lesions are potentially infectious, but no person-to-person transmission has been reported. Occlusive bandages may be applied to avoid this risk.

In severe cases, antivaccinia gammaglobulin may be given.


Surgical Care

Standard wound dressings may be applied to lesions. Draining of pus or removal of eschars may actually prolong infection or spread it to other body sites and is therefore not recommended.



Consult infectious disease and/or dermatology specialists for help in making a diagnosis and in differentiating it from parapoxvirus infections and other entities.

Contributor Information and Disclosures

Nikki A Levin, MD, PhD Associate Professor of Medicine, Division of Dermatology, University of Massachusetts Medical School

Nikki A Levin, MD, PhD is a member of the following medical societies: Alpha Omega Alpha, American Academy of Dermatology, Phi Beta Kappa, Sigma Xi

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Specialty Editor Board

Richard P Vinson, MD Assistant Clinical Professor, Department of Dermatology, Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, Paul L Foster School of Medicine; Consulting Staff, Mountain View Dermatology, PA

Richard P Vinson, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Dermatology, Texas Medical Association, Association of Military Dermatologists, Texas Dermatological Society

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Jeffrey Meffert, MD Associate Clinical Professor of Dermatology, University of Texas School of Medicine at San Antonio

Jeffrey Meffert, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Dermatology, American Medical Association, Association of Military Dermatologists, Texas Dermatological Society

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Chief Editor

Dirk M Elston, MD Professor and Chairman, Department of Dermatology and Dermatologic Surgery, Medical University of South Carolina College of Medicine

Dirk M Elston, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Dermatology

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

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A 16-year-old boy with generalized cowpox. Courtesy of Dr. Reinhard Hoepfl, Innsbruck, Austria.
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